Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix (Viperidae)

Distribution: Texas to US East Coast

Habitat: leaf-covered clearings in deciduous forests

African Rock Python

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About this snake: Copperhead

Copperheads will attempt to warn off larger animals when they feel threatened by shaking their bare tail in noisy, dry leaves to mimic the rattle of their relative the rattlesnake. Many people are fooled by this but they don't need to be quite as frightened of the copperhead since its venom is not as toxic as the rattlesnake's.

Copperheads have a heat sensitive pit located between the eye and the nostril on each side of the head that they use to detect warm-blooded prey. They don't actively hunt, but patiently lie in wait for small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. The young copperheads don't need to be quite as patient as their parents but can use their brightly colored yellow tails to lure food within their reach.

Copperheads live in leaf-covered clearings in deciduous forests, where their color markings camouflage them well. They have hollow, curved, retractable fangs that are normally folded back along the jaw but as the snake opens its mouth to strike the fangs spring forward into position. In the fall of the year this snake gathers to hibernate, often in association with the timber rattlesnake. Copperheads tend to live in large numbers in communal "dens." These "dens" are easily wiped out by suburban development and sport hunting.


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